No. 1 versus No. 2. That appears to be the scenario for Saturday's championship game between the No. 1 New Franklin Bulldogs and No. 2 Harrisburg Bulldogs.
Last night in the semifinal round of the Class 1 District 7 Tournament in Pilot Grove, the New Franklin exploded for 11 runs in the first inning en route to a 15-4 victory. Meanwhile, in the second inning, Harrisburg led Jamestown from start to finish for a 14-0 victory.
New Franklin and Harrisburg will meet for the district title on Saturday, Oct. 6 in Pilot Grove starting at 1 p.m.
While the win improved New Franklin's record to 15-10 overall, head coach Ross Dowell said it was good to see everyone back from injury and playing well again. "We pitched well and then got off to a great start offensively in the first with 11 runs on two home runs and seven of our nine girls hitting the ball," Dowell said. "We had a couple of errors and made two pitching mistakes, but overall we played very well."
That's an understatement. While out-hitting Bunceton 9-5, the Lady Bulldogs picked up six of their hits in the first inning to lead the Lady Dragons by a score of 11-0.
While sending 16 batters to the plate in the inning, New Franklin also had three hits go for extra bases. Of course no hit was bigger than the grand slam home run by junior Kalani Pihana, which made the score 5-0. However after back-to-back singles each by Aislinn Himmelberg and Megan Phillips, sophomore Madi Lyons answered with a three-run home run over the center field wall to extend the lead to 8-0.
Bunceton didn't go down without a fight, though. After giving up 11 runs in the bottom-half of the first, Bunceton sophomore Deanne Emde hit the first of her two home runs with smash to right-center field to cut the lead to nine at 11-2.
Unfortunately for the Lady Dragons, they had no answer for New Franklin in the bottom-half of the second as the Lady Bulldogs plated three more runs on three walks, one error and an infield single by Emily Hendrix to make it 14-2.
Of course Emde did her best to bring the Lady Dragons back in the third by hitting her second home run of the ballgame, almost in the same exact spot, to cut the lead to 14-4.
However it was just too much New Franklin on this night as the Lady Bulldogs added yet another run in the bottom-half of the third on a RBI-double to left by Sara Montgomery.
Bunceton coach Roger Stone said the achilles heel came back to bite the Lady Dragons.
"Walks and errors," Stone said. "You can't spot a team like New Franklin 11 runs and expect to win. After the first inning, it was a pretty good ballgame. We just couldn't get that key hit when we needed it. We end the season at 16-6, which is a successful season but you just don't want to go out with a game like this. We have a good nucleus of players coming back next season and I expect us to be just as competitive, if not better. Our two seniors (Erica Kahle and Kaitlyn Fountain) will be missed."
Page 2 of 2 - Kalani Pihana picked up the win on the mound for New Franklin while Erica Kahle took the loss for Bunceton, who finished the season at 16-6.
In five innings, Pihana struck out four batters and gave up four runs on five hits and three walks. Kahle, meanwhile, pitched 1/3 inning and surrendered eight runs on five hits and three walks while striking out one. Sam Brandes then came in and pitched 3 2/3 innings and allowed seven runs on four hits and six walks while striking out six.
Sara Montgomery went 3-for-3 in the game with one single and two doubles. Pihana had a grand slam and four RBIs while Lyons added a three-run home run and three RBIs. Abby Prewitt added a single and three RBIs while Aly Hundley had one triple and two RBIs and Aislinn Himmelberg and Megan Phillips each with one single.
For Bunceton, Deanne Emde had two home runs and four RBIs while Maddy Berwanger added two singles and Erica Kahle with one single.